Pacifique Ndungutse, a 26-year-old language teacher with visual impairment, strongly believes in self-reliance. This mindset has empowered him to overcome the limitations of his physical disability. Where many might feel unmotivated to improve their situation, he chose not to passively wait for help or resort to begging. Instead, he actively sought employment and worked hard to support himself. ALSO READ: Novel project to revolutionarise inclusiveness in Rwanda’s high education Born and raised in Kayonza District, Ndungutse’s childhood was a happy one. The second child in a family of five, his aspiration was to become a doctor, a career he grew fond of after witnessing several of his family members pass away due to inadequate healthcare. However, one day when he was only 10 years old, he woke up straining to open his eyes. And when he finally did, he could barely see. “It was 9am in the morning when I asked my siblings why it was dark. I asked if they were facing the same problem but they weren’t. I recall breaking down in tears wondering what I had done wrong to deserve that pain. I had developed wounds in my eyes that were so painful,” he said. ALSO READ: New policy for people with disabilities to deepen inclusion Due to his family's financial constraints, Ndungutse was unable to seek immediate medical assistance, which worsened his condition. “Some people believed it was witchcraft. I didn’t go to the hospital for about seven months. Looking back, that was the toughest period of my life. How was I supposed to cope with life, depending on others’ support for everything? I declined food, and tears were the order of the day,” he noted. Eventually, he managed to undergo a check-up at Kabgayi Hospital due to the severity of the pain. During the examination, doctors identified his condition as potentially trachoma, an eye disease caused by an infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. Ndungutse had an operation in the hope of restoring his vision, but it was unsuccessful. Unfortunately, even his right eye, which was less affected, was permanently damaged when a student at school threw a stone at him and injured it. However, there is hope for him to regain his sight. Doctors informed him that his eye infection could be treated by experts in other developed countries. Despite his desire to regain his vision, he is unable to bear the expenses associated with it due to his current focus on working to sustain himself financially. Teaching career Ndungutse completed both primary and secondary education at Home de la Vierge des Pauvres (HVP) Gatagara. While pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Swahili and English with Education at the University of Rwanda, College of Education Rukara campus in 2021, the 26-year-old acquired an opportunity to teach Swahili and Literature at Groupe Scolaire Kimironko for a year. After graduating in 2022, he joined Groupe Scolaire Rwimitereri where he teaches Swahili and Literature at A-Level, O-level, and TVET. Being a teacher is a profession he enjoys because he not only imparts knowledge and skills to learners, but also serves others. “Being a teacher is servanthood for me. My country offered me an opportunity to be who I am today. Very few people with disability get a chance to study to the level of a degree as there are many challenges we encounter,” he said, adding that many people with physical disabilities are desperate and begging for financial support. The language teacher commends the government for establishing special schools for individuals with disabilities, as these institutions enable them to build a promising future and become self-sufficient. Ndungutse wakes up at 5 am every day and prepares for the day’s lessons on his laptop. With the assistance of software for the blind and visually impaired, known as Job Access with Speech-JAWS, he is able to read the screen with a text-to-speech output. That way, he is able to project the notes in class. At 7 am, he arrives at the school. His lessons commence at 8:45 am and conclude at 5 pm. He relies on a white cane, a mobility tool for individuals with visual impairment, to navigate and perform his daily activities. “I always look forward to a new day to interact with my students. Even though I can’t see their faces, I know them by their names.” Ndungutse loves an interactive class, when learners seem tired or bored, he uplifts their spirits by engaging them in energizing warm-up activities, such as singing. Challenges His teaching journey has not been easy, as he mentioned that he has not been fully accepted in society. He feels disheartened by the fact that individuals with disabilities are frequently questioned about themselves rather than their abilities, which can sometimes make them feel like they don’t belong. “We need to be included and have access to all opportunities, requirements, buildings, and all things just like other citizens. People need to be enlightened on how to live with us, instead of isolating us,” Ndungutse noted. He, however, appreciates his fellow teachers and administration who offer him the support that he requires to teach, such as materials, equipment, and more. Way forward Ndungutse. Who currently resides in Huye District, plans to establish an organisation dedicated to advocating for the rights of children with disabilities. His vision is to support these children in obtaining education and other essential services. He encourages people to utilise social media as a platform to connect with individuals with disabilities, enabling them to realise their utmost capabilities and fostering empathy towards them. During his leisure time, he enjoys listening to music, meditating, and engaging in goalball, a sport created specifically for athletes with visual impairments. World Teachers’ Day is celebrated annually on October 5 to honour and appreciate the important role that teachers play in shaping the lives of students and society as a whole. It provides an opportunity to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and contributions of teachers worldwide.